Featured Property: 10515 NE 21st Place

This home in Bellevue, Washington, is redefining what it means to live in luxury. This stunning new construction is the perfect modern home for an individual or family.

Walk into through the solid mahogany doors to the foyer and see the unique and custom-made staircase to your right. The 5-bed, 6-bath home has the master suite on the main level and four en suite bedrooms on the upper level as well. 

On the main level is also a home office, patio with a built-in barbecue and heaters a chef’s kitchen and so much more. Meanwhile, the upper level features an entertainment room with all the bells and whistles, convenient laundry room and cozy reading nook.

The chef’s kitchen with quartz countertops & backsplash, 14-foot island, a Wolf stove and Miele appliances.

This home has been thoughtfully designed with luxury and efficiency in mind, and is the ultimate form of luxury for its owner.

Investment is a great way to grow wealth over time and can be a game-changer for most people. It can help you generate cash, providing you an additional source of income and even have you covered with regard to retirement. Either way, if done right, investment builds wealth. Naturally, investing your hard-earned money can be an overwhelming challenge since there are a wide range of investment options to choose from. At this point, assessing your personal risk tolerance and time horizon helps you to decide where and how to allocate your investments.

Condominiums

As with any investment, there are several variables that can influence the outcome of your investments. Condos are in high demand among millennials, and so, investing in them can be a great move if you make smart decisions and purchases. Unlike most housing options, the management of the condominium tends to its maintenance and upkeep, meaning you save time, energy and money. Condos typically come with premium amenities such as swimming pools and gym, yet the purchase price is generally cheaper than single-family homes. When it comes to investing to provide future income, investing condominiums tend to be a safe bet. Head on over to get a listing in this location

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Dividend Stocks

If you’re open to taking on a little more risk, dividend stocks may be an option for you. Including both common and preferred stocks, the equity market can provide great possibilities for future income. Invest in companies that have safe dividend payout ratios and, in return, the portion of profit for shareholders is distributed among the shareholders. Generate income on the basis of the number of shares you own.

An often underrated way to style a room with is the flooring, which often ends up as a simple hardwood or tile design. While adding neutral tones to floors can allow other statement pieces in a room to pop, sometimes a bold flooring can be just what the space needs.

With that, here are some tips and tricks to designing a room around a bold floor or rug:

Photo courtesy of Lithos Design

Photo courtesy of Chaplins Furniture

1. Matching Colors

When wanting to design a room with a statement piece, it’s always important to choose the piece that will pop before designing anything else. This way, you’ll know the colors and fabrics involved with the statement piece, and can design around that. In terms of flooring, a bold rug can make or break a room. Choosing the bold rug before anything else can ensure whatever you choose for the rest of the room will complement it.

With this space, the bold rug has two main colors, with gold being its secondary color. Instead of choosing another blue for the chairs, the designer chose to use the rug’s secondary color. This way, the blue rug still adds a pop, rather than being one of pieces with a similar color in the room. By using one of the more minor colors on the floor, there is still a wide variety of hues to have a creative and comfortable style. 

Photo courtesy of RugSociety

Photo courtesy of WOW Design

2. Sleek and Airy

By allowing the bold floor pattern to be the centerpiece of the room, the designer creates a light and airy atmosphere. Instead of cluttering the room with more designs and colors, the simple designs allow for the bold floor to stand out. The minimalist look along with various plants adds a sleek and refined style to the room while also adding just enough color to keep it vibrant.

 

The chevron floor interlocking tile and hardwood floors adds a one-of-a-kind design for the individual to enjoy. With the only other colors in the room being a hint of black and green, the minimalist design keeps the style interesting while also comforting in its simplicity. Keep this design in mind if you’re looking for a minimalist style with an added statement piece.

3. Eclectic Style

Don’t be afraid of flooring that gets colorful and different. When styled correctly, this can be the selling-point of the home. Its uniqueness never fails to impress those who are looking for something different yet clean and airy. 

While this tile may look busy and complicated close up, take a step back and see the beauty it adds to the home. The mid-century modern design adds a flair unlike any other, while also staying sleek and refined.

Photo courtesy of Lithos Design

Jeff Hyland and Drew Fenton are thrilled to present The Glazer Estate, located in Beverly Hills, California. Totaling approximately 27,500 square feet, the massive concrete home with a modern museum-style aesthetic was completed in 1995, and has since replaced the longtime home Dean Martin originally purchased in the 1950s. The property was most recently owned by late real estate developer Guilford Glazer and his wife, Diane Glazer.

“Offering an exclusive Beverly Hills lifestyle, this rare gem is the ultimate in refinement and architectural prowess,” Hyland says.

Beautifully situated on 1.6+ acres in the most prime neighborhood of Beverly Hills real estate, Mountain Drive is arguably the best street in the city, making The Glazer Estate a world-class home in a world-class location.

Guests are instantly greeted by a long, private driveway surrounded by park-like grounds. With no expense spared, The Glazer Estate makes entertaining on a grand-scale seamless, with the ability to host over 1,000 guests.

From large teak doors to a two-story atrium and theatrical water elements, only the highest level of quality is showcased throughout the residence. The open floor plan allows guests to flow between the grand formal dining room to the glass-enclosed junior dining room, formal living room, and an exceptional water lounge surrounded by ponds on all sides.

The lavish master retreat is a world unto itself, with dual baths and closets. Other standout amenities include indoor and outdoor pools as well as a ballroom.

Photos courtesy of Jim Bartsch

Inventories, consumer confidence, growing worldwide wealth, the stock market, tax changes and local dynamics are affecting how hot each luxury real estate market is throughout the U.S.

By Camilla McLaughlin

“Fasten your seatbelt, 2018 will be a fun and scary, but prosperous ride,” is how Brad Inman, founder of Inman News, assesses the outlook for real estate this year. On the other hand, developers and planners tapped by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) call for “a long glide path to a soft landing” for the economy and the real estate sector. They expect the current cycle to extend into 2018 and even beyond.

These comments perfectly illustrate the divergent opinions on the outlook for real estate this year, especially luxury real estate.

For real estate overall, it’s not an overstatement to say 2017 was a very good year. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) expects sales of existing homes in 2017 to tally at 5.81 million transactions, the best number since 2006, and 3.8 percent higher than 2016. Home prices grew by almost 6 percent, a pace NAR expects to be duplicated in 2018. Looking ahead, the forecast calls for an increase of 3.7 percent in the number of sales as more new construction amps up the number of homes on the market. December sales soared 5.6 percent, with most activity at the upper end of the market fueled by move-up buyers with considerable down payments, cash buyers and easing of inventory shortages.

For luxury real estate, the narrative, while positive, revolves around locations and price brackets, depicting a market beginning to settle into a sustainable pace after a protracted recovery. “Bottom line, we’re going to have a strong year,” says Philip White, president and CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates. “The one difference this year is the up-wind market is having a better 17 versus 16. We are going to have more transactions and a higher average sales price this year than last year.” 

In cities such as Seattle, San Francisco or Denver, demand for upscale properties outpaces supply. “Chicago now has 60 cranes in the air which has only happened twice in my 25 years here,” says Craig Hogan, vice president of luxury at Coldwell Banker Real Estate.

New York City is often portrayed as being in the doldrums. Although there has been a slow down in the ultra high end, other price points and neighborhoods all over the city are far from flat. Most active, according to Ellie Johnson, president at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New York Properties, is the $1 million to $5 million range, where multiple offers are not uncommon. From Dec. 11 through the 17, 18 properties went under contract above $4 million, which she says is a much larger number than the same period a year ago. When New Yorkers confront change, they often put buying plans on hold. Johnson says the upper price brackets are in a “strong hold pattern” right now, but she expects it to be short lived. Also, Wall Street bonuses should translate into “a very nice first quarter.”

“I already see a softening in the luxury home market with a growing inventory and properties on the very high end sitting on the market. An excess of new construction, with major homes that have been enthusiastically designed and under construction when the market was hotter, are now coming on to the scene in a different paradigm.”

— Bob Hurwitz, founder and CEO of
The Hurwitz James Company

 image courtesy istockphoto.com / Meinzahn

Traditional luxury markets in New York, California and Florida are still strong, but brokers also see big plays in smaller markets. Lesli Akers, president of Keller Williams Luxury Homes International, illustrates with a recent $22 million transaction in Austin, “the biggest sale in the history of that market.”  ULI forecasts a shift in interest and investment dollars to smaller metros such as Seattle, Austin and even Salt Lake City as well as close-in suburbs of New York and Washington, D.C. In New York, Diane Ramirez, chairman and CEO of Halstead, says new buildings, both residential and rental, with views of the Hudson River, extensive amenities and a short commute to the city are generating interest from younger consumers in White Plains, New Rochelle and Tarrytown.

“Luxury is starting to move into every market. As neighborhoods change, the buyers change,” says Diane Hartley, president of the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, noting it’s important for agents to understand this new buyer, new price points and new expectations.

For agents, “it’s no longer enough just to be a local expert, they have to have global knowledge as well. Most of the affluent are looking to see what is happening in the global market. But it’s also who agents are bringing to look at the home,” says Anne Miller, director of business alliances for RE/MAX.

At LuxuryRealEstate.com’s fall conference, comments about local markets were all positive, something Publisher John Brian Losh says usually doesn’t happen. “Prices are directly related to the economy and consumer confidence, and right now consumer confidence is high,” he says.

More than consumer confidence is bolstering luxury sales. Adding to demand are the growth of wealth in the U.S. and worldwide, a surge in the stock market, and a rise in foreign buying of U.S. properties. There are few, if any, indications this will change in the immediate future. Paul Boomsma, president of Luxury Portfolio International, explains: “Our white paper and our global survey show a lot of interest from buyers, not only for this year but over the next two years. There is more interest on the buy side than the sell side, and that is consistent among the high end, and it extends to 17 different countries. There is a lot of interest and not just in U.S. properties.” 

Purchases of U.S. properties from foreign buyers surged from $102 billion to $153 billion in the year ending March 2017, accounting for 10 percent of dollar volume of sales. “Foreign buyers generally see the U.S. as a safe haven for investment,” says Bob Hurwitz, founder and CEO of The Hurwitz James Company, whose current clients include mega affluent buyers from Turkey, Singapore, China and Ukraine looking buy in price ranges of $20 million and up. “In a couple of cases this includes multiple properties, including commercial and development not exclusive to California,” he adds.

While most markets sizzle, the high end in some locations and price brackets is back to a slow simmer. “I already see a softening in the luxury home market with a growing inventory and properties on the very high end sitting on the market. An excess of new construction, with major homes that have been enthusiastically designed and under construction when the market was hotter, are now coming on to the scene in a different paradigm,” says Hurwitz. “Prices have already adjusted, and as developers and luxury home builders start having homes sit on the market, there will be opportunities to make good buys.”

“In the ultra high end, I think prices are being adjusted to the economy,” says Losh, noting a common issue with ultra properties. Often sellers price the home at the highest price they ever imaged. After a couple of years, they get realistic. “What really determines value is what it cost to replace a property,” he says.

The ultra high end may be cooling, but, Hogan says, the luxury market is healthy. “The $1-to-3 million, $3-to-5 million and $5-to-9.9 million sectors are strong. Not in every city but as a whole, based on our year-to-date numbers. I honestly feel that we are simply normalizing.”

“We are seeing some moderating trends in the luxury space,” says Akers. Downward price adjustments and longer days on market are signs that luxury is moving toward a more balanced market. Still, she adds, “Truly unique properties still command top dollar and cash offers.”

It would seem that the performance of the stock market might discourage real estate investment. Instead, Marci Rossell, chief economist for Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, says it has an opposite effect. “For the luxury buyer, real estate is part of a larger portfolio and portfolios have swelled in terms of stock market value over the last two years. So, from the perspective of balancing a portfolio, real estate can look attractive.” The most influential trend for 2018, particularly the high end, is new consumer attitudes. “Across all price points, the word value is critical today,” says Ramirez. “Value to a $1 million buyer and a $600,000 buyer is not the same, but both want the perception of value.”

Consumers have become even more demanding. “There is a desire for perfection. They want a property or an experience to be exactly what they want it to be. There is no desire for compromise,” says Hartley.

Price matters, but it’s not the only factor in the value equation. “If it’s been on the market awhile, bringing down the price is not going to do it. You have to see what’s selling,” says Ramirez, using the example of a $7 million property in Darien that sold in a single day. It was well priced and located across from the water. Water views continue to be in highest demand.

People want new. “If it’s an older home, it must be newly renovated,” says Ramirez. “People feel they don’t have the time for a renovation and they are unsure of the cost.”

The bottom line for sellers, according to Miller, is to listen to their agent. “We’re hoping that everybody takes a reality check on location, quality — is it unique and rare, does it have all the luxury amenities? — before they list their home.”   

People want new.

“If it’s an older home, it must be newly renovated,” says Diane Ramirez, chairman and CEO of Halstead. “People feel they don’t have the time for a renovation and they are unsure of the cost.”

Image courtesy istockphoto.com / TobiasBischof

Also, says Kevin Thompson, chief marketing officer at Sotheby’s International, “There is a search for the unique.” This new consumer isn’t interested in cookie-cutter anything. “They want something personal and outside the norm, and they are willing to pay for that.”

Looking ahead, Hogan sees new construction, contemporary/modern, a smaller footprint and full connectivity shaping future demand.

“We’re seeing more and more of what I call the ‘Tesla consumer with the Apple watch’ — a client who’s passionate about their lifestyle and their environmental foot print. They want to do what’s right for the earth, and they don’t mind people knowing it’s expensive,” shares Akers.

Recent ultra-high-end sales in Greenwich and Manhattan are evidence that buyers are out, according to appraiser Jonathan Miller, who noted in a recent blog: “Buyers remain in the market, but the price needs to reflect 2017.”

Akers says sellers should prepare to sell at fair market value. “We’re not in a ‘dip your toe in the market and test it out’ kind of market.”

The number of homes available for sale continues to be the fulcrum on which markets balance. Regarding real estate overall, Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist says: “Home prices, after multiple years of fast growth, still show no signs of cooling because of the ongoing housing shortage in much of the country. The latest Case-Shiller price growth of 6.2 percent on a nationwide basis marks the strongest rise in over three years.”

High-priced markets are not immune to inventory challenges, but it’s not in every location. Instead, it is likely to be places that have had strong buying for years and strong population growth. White uses the example of San Francisco, where anything that is priced right is snapped up. Inventory constraints, according to White, are not unique to the U.S. “In Hong Kong and Japan, there are stories where people are lined up to buy high-priced units in new buildings, even to the point where they will sell their place in line.”

This year, for the first time since the downturn, inventories eased ever so slightly, and forecasts point to more new construction in the next few years. Javier Vivas, director of economic research for Realtor.com, sees 2018 as “a significant inflection point in the housing shortage, with increases in inventory felt initially in the mid- to higher-price points above $350,000.” Vivas says Boston, Detroit, Kansas City, Nashville and Philadelphia are predicted to see inventory recovery first.

As inventories grow, sellers need to understand that homes that are dated or not priced accurately will fall to the bottom of prospective buyers’ list of target properties.

At year-end, tax changes and continued political uncertainty loomed over every forecast. “For buyers worldwide, I think policy changes will matter more than economic climate. This is a year when tax policy could drive some location decisions. If you are a first-time buyer in a high-tax area and you are looking to put down roots, you will think long and hard about the tax consequences of a location. Even on the European front, we know Brexit will affect location decisions. Already we are seeing relocations out of London to Frankfurt,” shares Rossell. “The homebuying decision is part of a large mosaic, and the tax implication of that decision used to be a smaller tile, and it will become a larger tile.

Looking ahead: “The economy and housing market will grow like crazy. Job creation is at record levels; unemployment is at a 17-year low, wages are feeling upward pressure and companies are investing at a fast and furious pace,” commented Inman. “A backdrop of political uncertainty will not slow down the global economic thoroughbred that is galloping at a full run. Left in the dust will be housing affordability in many major metros.”

THIS STORY WAS FEATURED IN OUR WINTER 2018 ISSUE.

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL DIGITAL VERSION.

In 2017, Unique Homes is traveling the U.S. to find the dominant stories in each region of the country — this issue covers international buyers.

By Camilla McLaughlin

Photo courtesy istockphoto.com/ALotOfPeople

“International buyers are spreading their wings. It’s not just about New York, Miami and L.A. anymore,” observes Stephanie Pfeffer Anton, executive vice president of Luxury Portfolio International.

When buyers from outside the country came to the U.S., they used to gravitate to a handful of cities. Today, they are apt to look for homes and condos almost anywhere in the country. Even though five states capture the most international attention, 46 percent of sales to foreign buyers are scattered across the country in states ranging from Kentucky to Massachusetts to Illinois. Buyers from China, Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico and India account for just over half of the transactions, but 48 percent, almost half of all foreign buyers, hail from other countries.

“Quite simply, as the world continues to get smaller, the number of people with the interest and means to purchase outside their own country increases. Buyers are spreading their wings. It’s not just about New York, Miami and L.A. anymore. Global buyers continue to be a small percentage of buyers in most

markets, but even our members in smaller markets like Wilmington, North Carolina or Boulder, Colorado, are reporting demand from non-U.S. buyers,” says Stephanie Pfeffer Anton, executive vice president of Luxury Portfolio International.
The much publicized pull back of luxury buyers and substantial inventory of upscale properties in Manhattan and Miami might create the impression that demand from foreign buyers is in the doldrums; in reality, sales of residential property to foreign buyers hit a new high in the 12 months ending March 2017. Total dollar volume jumped 49 percent (from $102 billion to $153 billion), and the number of sales increased 32 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). “The political and economic uncertainty both here and abroad did not deter foreigners from exponentially ramping up their purchases of U.S. property over the past year,” observed Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “While the strengthening of the U.S. dollar in relation to other currencies and steadfast home-price growth made buying a home more expensive in many areas, foreigners increasingly acted on their beliefs that the U.S. is a safe and secure place to live, work and invest.”

Even with a strong dollar, tight inventories and recent appreciation, prices for U.S. residences are still lower than many other countries, and the search for value is bringing new groups of buyers to new places. As an example, Anne Miller, director, business alliances at RE/MAX, says more Canadians from British Columbia are looking in areas surrounding Portland, Oregon, and Seattle for a good investment that will hold its value. Also prompting purchases, according to Yun, is the possibility that other currencies could further weaken against the dollar, making U.S. properties more expensive in the future.

Once again, buyers from China accounted for the most transactions, spending $31.7 billion, up from 2015’s record $28.6 billion. However, NAR’s data was compiled before many of the new restrictions imposed by the Chinese government regarding the transfer of money outside mainland China were fully in force, and sales to Chinese nationals this year have been softer in some places.  Still, brokers who work in the international arena, such as Joyce Rey, executive director, Coldwell Banker Global Luxury, say most very wealthy Chinese already have their money outside the country.

“We have seen a slowdown in the Chinese buyer, but they have by no means disappeared,” says Anton. “The slowdown is felt most directly in U.S. cities that saw a dramatic rise — places like Seattle and San Francisco.” Anton also points to other diverse factors fueling international demand, including changes in direct flights and education. “Boston is another example where we still see a lot of international buyers due in large part to the significant concentration of colleges and universities,” she says. Buying for a student, present or future, is important for a percentage of Chinese buyers.

Boston also has new ultra-luxury buildings offering a high level of security and an international design aesthetic that appeals to foreign buyers and Chinese buyers in particular. Boston, along with San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles and San Diego were the U.S. markets most popular with Chinese shoppers. As a group, these buyers also typically target higher price points than domestic buyers.

For high-end properties, Bob Hurwitz, founder and CEO of the Hurwitz James Company in Beverly Hills, says Chinese buyers are shifting their focus toward lower prices. “The tightening of restrictions on capital leaving mainland China and buyers wishing to avoid scrutiny caused a pullback in purchases of high-profile property,” he says, noting that he is getting more requests for the $1.5 million to $4 million range.

Canadians as Catalysts

This year, Canadians were the wild card in the international mix. After dipping in the 2016 survey to $8.9 billion, transactions by Canadians hit a new high — $19 billion. The Canadian influence extends as far as Hawaii, but Florida is the epicenter. Twenty-two percent of all purchases by foreign buyers occurred in the Sunshine State, with the highest number to Canadians. South Florida ranks with Los Angeles as the U.S. markets eliciting the most international interest with inquiries on Realtor.com coming from Brazil, Columbia, Germany and the U.K., in addition to Canada.

Although geopolitical factors have slowed demand from some South American countries, Miami’s cachet as a global luxury hub is not tarnished. Value-conscious buyers, particularly Canadians, also look to Fort Lauderdale, according to Zach Joslin of the Brissi Group of EWM Realty International.

Park Shore Beach, Naples Florida

Photo courtesy The Bua Bell Group

Venezuelan buyers are drawn to nearby Weston. Indian buyers are newcomers in both Broward and Miami-Dade counties. An ongoing expansion of the Fort Lauderdale airport is expected to enhance international connections.

Nationally, those from outside the U.S. spend more on real estate than domestic buyers, and in Miami, they spend more on average than in anywhere else in Florida or nationally. About 70 percent of Miami Realtors work with international buyers, more than double NAR’s national figure.

Palm Beach continues to be recognized globally for luxury, and the area appeals to a diverse group hailing from countries including Germany, Argentina, Ireland and Russia, but agents say Canadians and buyers from the U.K. still comprise the largest contingent. Also casting a wide net globally is the equestrian season in nearby Wellington.

Orlando is the second location preferred by Florida’s international home buyers with 12 percent opting for the region, up from 8 percent in 2015. Like foreign buyers nationally, they tend to spend more on a purchase, usually with cash. Top countries of origin: Brazil, U.K. and Canada. Argentines and Venezuelans tend to buy rental properties with the intent of cashing in on the region’s steady stream of tourists. A recent market shift has 40 percent of purchases happening in central Orlando.

Perhaps the best testimony to changes in locations preferred by foreign buyers is Naples, Florida, where one is likely to encounter multiple languages on a stroll through downtown. “We’ve always had buyers from Canada, Germany and the U.K. But we are now seeing the Asian market consumers,” says Tade Bua Bell with John R. Wood Properties. Other newcomers are from Spain, France, Russia and Sweden. Top preference: turnkey residences near the beach and ocean. An exchange program between a local private school and a school in China also elicits international interest.

Casa Rancho Mirage, Palm Springs Valley California

Photo courtesy Hurwitz James Company

California Dreaming

California and Texas vie for second place in the race for international buyers with each accounting for 12 percent. Los Angeles, both the city and prime Westside enclaves such as Beverly Hills, continue to be a magnet for foreign buyers. In the ultra high end, Rey says, foreign buyers “typically dominate from 20 to 35 percent of the market, a number that varies from year to year.”

“They place great emphasis on views, and these types of properties are escalating in value as a result of the influence of foreign buyers,” she says. Middle Eastern buyers tend to go to Bel Air because of the views; Europeans look to Sunset Strip and Bel Air locations, also for views.

Traditionally, Asian buyers gravitated to the Pasadena/Arcadia area, and now Rey says she is seeing more coming to her market. Other hot locations for Chinese buyers include Bradbury and Irvine. Hurwitz says Russians and Ukrainians are diverse in what they look for, but tend to own in the same area they bought previously, whether that be Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Cheviot Hills or wherever.

Along with prices, foreign buyers also influence design and architecture, here and in a number of other locations. “Developers definitely build for an international taste level,” says Rey.

In Texas, international sales surged from April 2016 to May 2017, with the number of dollars doubling. In Dallas and Houston, both centers of international businesses including finance and energy, purchases from buyers out of the country are often related to work. One in 10 Indian buyers and 43 percent of Mexican buyers purchase in Texas. Also, 11 percent of Chinese buyers purchased in the Lone Star State. Brokers in a number of other states and locations including New Jersey and Connecticut are seeing a similar trend, particularly with buyers from India. Greenwich and Darien, Connecticut are also seeing more foreign buyers, many of whom might move from other U.S. locations.

What those buyers want is quite different than someone looking for a place to spend a few weeks a year, explains Diane Ramirez, chairman and CEO of Halstead Real Estate. Space for extended family or multiple generations or even really good staff quarters might be important to these buyers.

It is important to note, NAR’s data includes recent immigrants as well as non-resident buyers and it covers all price brackets.

Ramirez also points out that although influential, foreign buyers still comprise a small percentage of overall sales. “We always have interest from foreign buyers, but it is never the percentage most people think it is,” she explains.

After a sharp decline in 2015, the ranks of the ultra-wealthy globally grew by 3.5 percent in 2016, with North America and Asia registering the greatest increase. New York City, home to the largest concentration of ultra-wealthy, continues to vie with London for the top position in rankings such as the Alpha Cities Index, compliled by Wealth-X, Warburb Realty and Barnes International Realty, which ranks 50 of the world’s top cities based on their potential for a purchase and interest to ultra-wealthy individuals. A number of U.S. cities ranked among the top 20, with Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., in the top 10, along with New York. Los Angeles, Boston, Miami, Houston and Dallas rounding out the list. While San Francisco is a top market for foreign buyers, Chicago, Dallas and a few other cities have a larger ultra-high-net worth population.

Cedric Choi, Choi International, Honolulu

Craig Denton, Managing Broker and Director of Business Development, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Colorado Properties, Vail, Colorado

John Engle, Halstead Property, New Canaan, Connecticut

Karen Rodriguez, Group Kora and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties

Aleksandra Scepanovic, Managing Director, Ideal Properties Group

WealthX.com

Walnut Place, one of Dallas’ finest and largest estates, is going to auction with no reserve bidding opening on Dec. 19.

More sellers of luxury properties are taking the auction route to market and sell their properties. There are a number of reasons that it makes sense, especially when buyers shopping at the top level of the market are so few. Auctions get wider attention and the larger auction houses understand the value of advertising globally to reach the major wealth centers rather than restricting themselves just to the U.S. Another reason is the uniqueness of most high-end real estate of which there are few comparables for establishing a fair market price which the bidding process helps to establish that level.
 

Some of the most notable home auctions have been the elegant Gianni Versace Mansion on South Beach in Miami Beach, Florida in 2013 which sold at $41.5 million to the Jordache Jeans family and the Virginia Klug Winery, which Donald Trump purchased for $6.2 million at a foreclosure auction in 2011. Trump was also the second highest bidder on the Versace Mansion. Another luxury auction is on the horizon when Dallas’ Walnut Place begins the bidding process on December 19.
 

In the Mayflower Estates section of Preston Hollow, Walnut Place is one of the most architecturally significant estates in the southern U.S., designed in 1938 by world-renowned architect Maurice Fatio. The Swiss-born Fatio was well known for his projects in New York and Florida where he designed over 200 homes, many built in Palm Beach for the super rich including Harold Vanderbilt, Marjorie Merriweather Post and E.F. Hutton…

 

To read the full story, visit TopTenRealEstateDeals.com.

Photos courtesy Concierge Auctions

T. Boone Pickens just listed his beloved Mesa Vista Ranch for $250 million.

The property, comprised of over 100 square miles of prime Eastern Texas Panhandle ranch land, has been owned by Pickens for 46 years. In an official statement about selling the property, Pickens states, “I initiated a multi-decade program to help the land heal and, over time, invested millions on wildlife management, programs, and facilities to create what many believe is the best quail hunting in the world.”
Approximately 85 miles northeast of Amarillo, the Mesa Vista Ranch covers approximately 25 miles along the south side of the Canadian river, with a wide variety of land types including rolling hills to elevated ridges to prairie lands. Multiple structures can be found on the grounds, including a Lodge compound and a Lake House. The property also includes an airport and hangar located within an 8-foot-high game fence, and a dog kennel of over 11,000 square feet.
As stated on Hall and Hall’s site, “Boone has been a leader in conservation practices that are now followed by many other sportsmen in the country. As a testament to Boone’s conservation efforts, in 2008 he was named the recipient of the prestigious Park Cities Quail Unlimited Lifetime Sportsman Award.” Wildlife enhancements include over 1,000 quail feeders, deer feeders, many food plot areas and a network of buried waterlines with outlets to create wet areas for quail.
The property is offered jointly and exclusively by Hall and Hall and Chas. S. Middleton and Son.

 
All photos courtesy Mesa Vista Ranch 

Photo courtesy Maxwell Mackenzie.

In 2017, Unique Homes is traveling the U.S. to find the dominant stories in each region of the country — This issue covers the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

By Camilla McLaughlin

To say 2017 is a year of change is an understatement, and real estate is no exception. Prices are up … and down. Condition matters, and design and architecture have almost become a national obsession. In our yearlong series, we are taking a look at all the regions of the country in an attempt to answer the question of the year,

WHAT NOW?

For real estate in major East Coast cities, 2017 culminates a decade of change. In many locations, it is a turning point of sorts with new value equations being forged and entirely new standards for luxury properties emerging. Lifestyle matters more than ever. Whether it’s a desire for arts and culture or an escape from ever-increasing gridlock, a penchant for urban living has become a prime driver for real estate in many markets. What changes also stays the same, as neighborhoods that were hot hundreds of years ago are back in vogue.

Photo courtesy ©getty images. 

New York

“We used to say cash is king. I think right now value is king. Everyone from luxury down to the $1 million range wants to feel some value,” says Diane Ramirez, chairman and CEO of Halstead Property, about real estate in the Big Apple. 

Few real estate markets received as much scrutiny in 2016 as New York. Reports from the first quarter of 2017 point toward a revival, with prices and transactions for resale apartments increasing by 5 percent year-over-year. Closing prices for new development averaged $4.3 million, 15-percent higher than the first quarter 2016. “Post election, we’re seeing a great deal of interest. In Manhattan, the luxury market is bubbling, very interesting and active. We’re seeing activity, but the higher you go up the more challenging it is. Yet, we recently closed on a $41-million-plus sale,” says Ramirez.

Years of white-hot demand tempered in 2016, and sellers have had to fine tune expectations and adjust to the new market reality. Ramirez explains: “Buyers, whether it’s $30 million or $16 million or $1.5 million, want to see or feel they got some value.” It doesn’t necessarily have to be price. It could be some type of a concession or initiative.

What’s hot here continues to be new. “People love new construction. They just love the newness. It’s no longer just about space,” Ramirez says, listing the benefits new construction delivers — views even from the kitchen, open plans with excellent flow, collaborative spaces and technology. And big windows that make these urban dwellings almost seem like a suburban home.

Fewer permit applications suggest development is slowing. New buildings currently in the pipeline are not on ultra prime streets. While still very upscale, they will come to market at lower price points. “I am happy to see some of the newest development coming in prices that are still in the $6 million range or higher but not starting at $8 million,” says Ramirez.

Highest-priced listing: $110 million penthouse in the Woolworth Tower Residences

On the Radar: 121 East 22nd Street

New upscale buildings with lower price tags such as 121 East 22nd Street, which straddles Gramercy Park and Madison Square. Prices range from $1.3 million to $10.5 million. The first residential building in Manhattan designed by Rem Koolhaas’ firm, Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), this building offers 67 unique floor plans and was developed in conjunction with Tolls Brothers. Also on the books is 75 Kenmare, perched on the site of a former parking garage at the intersection of SoHo, NoHo, the Lower East and Little Italy.

Rendering courtesy Toll Brothers City Living.

Motoring Toward a Car-Fewer Future

Last year, planners at the Urban Land Institute speculated how ridesharing and self-driving cars will change cities. This year, the vision of cities with fewer cars is beginning to look like a real possibility. Our focus cities rank high for living without a car, according to a recent report compiled by Redfin. “Transportation is a big deal these days,” observes Paul Grover. Access to transportation and walkability often determine target locations for buyers. Grover says it’s not uncommon for clients to say they are planning to not have a car or to reduce the number of cars they own. San Francisco ranked highest on Redfin’s list of best cities to live in without a car, followed by New York, Boston, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. Walkability is only part of the equation, which includes bike sharing, bike lanes and transit.

Photo courtesy ©istockphoto.com / csfotoimages.

Boston

“Boston is becoming a little shinier. The public gardens and esplanade, all the things we love about it, are still here, but you can definitely see change,” says Paul Grover, a partner at Robert Paul Properties. More than the skyline is being altered as recent construction, such as the 60-story Millennium Towers, introduces a new paradigm for premium properties.  Unlike the townhouses prized by Boston’s legendary Brahmin, the lifestyle is ultra luxurious with services, architecture and amenities comparable to prime buildings in New York and San Francisco. For example, the Millennium has a private restaurant and bar, under the helm of Michael Mina, solely for residents.

Change is not new to Boston. For almost two decades, the city has been in a constant state of flux as one neighborhood after another is rediscovered. Some of the most compelling real estate stories today are coming out of old towns that ring city center. Newton, Brookline, Chestnut Hill and Weston remain luxury stalwarts, but close-in communities like Watertown, Chelsea and Everett are seeing record prices. Cambridge is white hot. In Somerville, once a haven for first-time buyers, million-dollar prices are not uncommon.

Right now, Boston has one of the hottest real estate markets in the country with the number of single-family homes for sale down 35.2 percent year-over-year in February; condos were down 27.6 percent. Statewide, February marked the 60th time in the last 61 months with a year-over-year inventory decrease.

What’s hot: Close-in locations with access to transportation. 

Highest-priced listing: Woodland Manor, a $90 million estate on 14 acres, less than 6 miles from the center of the city in Chestnut Hill.

Top: ©getty images; Bottom: 2 Avery Street, courtesy Robert Paul Properties.

Photo courtesy ©getty images. 

Washington, D.C.

“The thing with D.C., it’s always been a solid market with so many people moving in and out,” says Katherine Herndon Martin with McEnearney Associates. Long before the recession, Washington’s real estate star was on the rise, and in recent years it has charted among top markets nationally. In March, homes were selling within two weeks, with the number of units sold up 15 percent vs. a year ago.

The recent focus on ultra properties on Kalorama Road has pushed upscale Washington into the limelight. Until recently, prices above $12 million were rare, but billionaire interest, beginning with Jeff Bezos’ purchase of a $23 million property on S Street, puts new upscale dynamics in play. Similar to Beverly Hills, new estates, rather than new towers, create rising benchmarks for luxury here.

The most expensive property on the market in the District of Columbia is a $22 million estate on Chain Bridge Road on the second-highest point in the

city. (The National Cathedral is the highest.) At first glance, the regency-styled home seems to be one of the city’s historic estates, but it is newly built and constructed with a level of materials and attention to detail comparable to that found in the most expensive areas of the country. 

The other facet of the D.C. real estate story is continued redevelopment and gentrification of neighborhoods and parts of the city, a process that began decades ago. Some of the newest hot areas include Brookland near Catholic University as well as neighborhoods around Logan Circle. In many of the suburbs, bigger continues to have great appeal with buyers often adding on to what is already substantial square footage in properties in Potomac, Maryland and McLean, Virginia.

Highest Price in the Region: $24 million for new construction in McLean, Virginia.

Highest Price in the District: $22 million for a newly constructed estate in the Foxhall Neighborhood.

Philadelphia

Eds and meds is how Mark Wade with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox and Roach Realtors sums up part of the draw to Center City Philadelphia. But, based on the large number of downsizers exchanging suburb for city, arts and culture are easily in the mix. The big news here is new super premium buildings that fetch unheard of prices, especially for condominium residences. “Basically, what we have is that Philadelphia is a town of Toyotas and Mercedes. That’s our high-rise market. What’s coming down the pike are Bentleys. There is a huge disparity between the two. The gap is unbelievable,” Wade says referring to the recent sale of an 8,900-square-foot, two-story penthouse at 500 Walnut for $17.85 million, a record in a city where the previous high priced sale was a $12.5 million penthouse, set in 2010.   

Newcomers, particularly those drawn by the universities and medical systems, also opt for a home in the city. “Twenty-five years ago, the trend was the exact opposite. Somebody would move here, say from Atlanta, and they would bypass the city and magically end up in the suburbs. Today, when we get a transferee like that, it’s the exact opposite,” observes Wade. Additionally, the city attracts a large contingent of commuters to Manhattan, who happily trade an hour in the car for a productive hour on the train.

Highest-priced listing: $16.795 million for a
Society Hill condo.

On the radar: New ultra-luxury buildings, such as the Residences at the Ritz Carlton, are setting records over $10 million.

Market Insight: “When our market rises, it does so at a sustainable pace,” says Wade. “When our market falls, it does so gradually — we don’t have the crazy ups and downs of say a Miami, or New York, or D.C. We seem to chug along either up or down. Nothing wrong with that!”

Photo courtesy ©Mefmanoo/Wikimedia Commons.

The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia. Photo courtesy Ritz-Carlton.

Baltimore

Photo courtesy ©getty images.

Charm City is more than just a catchy moniker. “Baltimore is a hotbed,” and when you are here you discover that it literally is Charm City, observes Charlie Hatter, owner of Prime Building Advantage and Monument Sotheby’s International Realty in Baltimore. “Luxury real estate is doing very, very well,” he says, citing a recent $6 million sale. “Anything above $2 million is considered ultra luxury for this market.” High-end suburbs including Roland Park and Towson and properties in the horse country see strong demand.   

The ambiance of the city and prices bring a number of new residents who have children in New York or Washington, D.C., which are both an easy train ride away. Revitalized areas in the city and inner harbor area are in demand. Like many places, sales were slow or even stagnant in summer and fall. On the other hand, Charlie Hatter describes the spring market as “huge” with lots of activity around the inner harbor, as well as areas that have been revitalized. “People love the charm and the uniqueness of the older properties,” he says.

Highest-priced listing: $12.5 million for a Four Seasons penthouse with skyline and water views.

This story originally appeared in Unique Homes Ultimate ’17. Click here to see the digital version.

By: Camilla McLaughlin

Photo courtesy Istockphoto.com

Taking the temperature of luxury real estate at year-end was not an easy task, with post-election uncertainty still palpable and an interest-rate hike in motion. What does it mean for upscale consumers? A new state of mind is what Diane Ramirez, CEO and co-chairman of Halstead Property, sees emerging in the marketplace.
Cautiously optimistic … price conscious … limited inventory … a glut of properties … sell now … hang tight. These are all phrases industry leaders used to characterize the upscale market as 2016 transitioned into 2017, and nothing better illustrated the contradictory dynamics of luxury real estate at year-end.
High-end properties led the recovery, but this year the luxury story is, in part, one of increasing days on market and slower price appreciation in some but not all locations. “Some markets are seeing a slowdown in the high-end and some aren’t. It’s important to keep this in perspective,” says Philip White, president and chief executive officer, Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates.
“Markets that are seeing a slowdown are places that came back hard and fast from the recession,” says Stephanie Anton, executive vice president, Luxury Portfolio International.
“In most markets, we’re seeing price increases stabilizing, and 2017 will be a great time to buy, says Lesli Akers, president of Keller Williams Luxury Homes International. “Basically, we’ve moved out of a ‘crazy’ sellers’ market into a ‘normal’ sellers’ market. We anticipate the luxury market will be more balanced in 2017.”

No Market Shift Overall

By the end of December, the most recent data confirmed what many anticipated: 2016 would go on record as an exceptional year. “Over the past 11 months, the majority of markets have seen home prices return to their pre-recession levels, reaffirming that 2016 has been the best year for the housing market since the recession,” said Dave Liniger, CEO and co-founder of RE/MAX.
Even though rising mortgage rates and a limited inventory in affordable price brackets are expected to temper sales, the outlook is positive, and at year-end, favorable indicators continued to accumulate. October sales — up 5.9 percent year-over-year — charted the highest pace since February 2007. Expectations are 2016 sales will tally 5.42 million, the best year since 2006, when 6.47 million properties sold. September prices, according to the Case Schiller Home Price Index, surpassed the July 2006 peak. With just over a four-month supply, the inventory is well under the 6-month benchmark that signals a balance between buyers and sellers. Looking ahead, prices are projected to rise 5 percent this year, followed by a 4-percent increase in 2017, when existing sales are expected to track at 5.52 million.

According to the RE/MAX National Housing Report, more homes in all price brackets sold in November than in any November in the last eight years, with home sales 19.1 percent greater than a year ago.

“The housing market has proved more resilient than many feared this time last year,” observes Akers. “At the lower end of the price scale, there’s very limited inventory. Anything under, say $300,000, is flying off the shelf.”

Most importantly, there are no signs pointing to a market shift anytime soon. In fact, almost three quarters of industry experts surveyed by Zillow do not expect the pendulum to swing back in favor of buyers until well beyond 2017. The largest number, 42 percent, see it taking place in 2018 while a few even look past 2020.

Compared to recent years, interest from international buyers softened in 2016. “The worldwide economic slowdown, like everything else, is relative. Granted, we all have to be mindful of  global challenges with the potential to slow the foreign investment in high-end property, but these types of challenges have yet to negatively affect the majority of the affluent,” says Gino Blefari, CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC.

Luxury is Local

On the other hand, a range of variables from a surge of new construction to the value of the dollar, to new requirements for transaction disclosures, are affecting sales in certain high-end locales, while a lack of properties puts a damper on transactions in others. The end result is a diverse and stratified luxury market.

“It’s a tale of many markets and, also, markets within markets. Depending on the market, certain price points are more active than others. We also see the disparity in demand for new development and construction,” shares Charlie Young, president & CEO, Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC.

“Real estate is a local market business, so there are always going to be outliers and exceptions to overall trends. It’s all about supply and demand,” shares Akers.

“The West has been strong continually for the last several years. The East Coast had a little pre- and post-election slump or slowdown, but that seems to be improving now with the stock market’s reacting favorably to the election,” says John Brian Losh, publisher of LuxuryRealEstate.com.

Uber-luxury properties in New York, Miami and platinum neighborhoods on L.A.’s Westside capture the most attention from both traditional and social media. It’s tempting to consider that heady realm as indicative of luxury overall, but those price points and locations represent a slim slice of the market. It’s for good reason economists are prone to use sui generis to characterize this rarified sphere.

“When we look at the ultra-high-end $15 million-plus price range, it’s a very small percentage of overall U.S. home sales — we have to consider things such as affordability, behavioral trends and more,” says White.

Recently, John Burns, CEO of John Burns Real Estate Consulting weighed in to counter reports of a national luxury slowdown. According to Burns, luxury home sales continue to increase and sales of homes priced above $600,000 in the last 12 months exceed the prior 12 months by 10 percent. Data from NAR also shows homes priced above $750,000 accounting for 4.55 percent of overall sales in the first 10 months of 2016, compared to 4.491 percent in 2015.

If anything, the recovery itself has been a story of many markets. “We’ve not had a single year where you can say every sector was growing or performing well. The luxury market did better in the early years, but in the past year appears to be one of the weaker parts of the market,” says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Realtor.com, who sees real estate overall as a “big dynamic ecosystem.”

Ask agents and experts where luxury sales are still hot and they tick off a range of places as diverse as Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, even parts of Florida. And the risk in these markets is not a lack of buyers, but rather not enough homes to sell. Of the 35 largest U.S. metros, Boston has had the largest decline in inventory year over year, according to Zillow. 

Paul Boomsma, president of Luxury Portfolio International and COO of Leading RE, also sees diversification of the high end as a positive indication that the luxury sphere might be settling into what could be considered normal. “When you’re in a normal market, it’s not the same everywhere.”

Uncertainty surrounding the election also put some real estate plans on the backburner, although reports from agents at the end of December suggest this might be a temporary adjustment.

Inventory is Down, Except…

The supply of homes for sale priced above $1 million fell 2.4 percent in the third quarter from a year prior, while those priced above $5 million increased 17.2 percent, according to Redfin.

“Inventory across the board in the broader market has been — and I believe will continue to be — a concern, with the exception of sections overbuilding in new construction. In the upper price brackets, it’s shown to be an issue as well. On the other side of that sword, we have areas where our $7 million-plus and certain $20 million-plus buyers have many to choose from, so that is a sign of few active buyers and not so much an inventory issue,” explains Craig Hogan, vice president for luxury, Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC. 

In New York City, where the number of for-sale properties grew in 2016 and prices stabilized and even softened, those who know the market say the pendulum still favors sellers. “It’s not a buyers’ market, but buyers do have more options now,” says Eric Serras, principal broker at Ideal Properties Group.

In Manhattan, the number of properties for sale priced at $30 million-and-up is unprecedented. “We’ve never had a supply at that level and with that level of superior finishes. There is nothing that isn’t superb. Usually you have a jewel or two of those, but we have a number of jewels now. It obviously creates a bit of an oversupply,” observed Ramirez.   

Hope and Change?

According to Redfin, luxury home prices rose 1.4 percent in the third quarter of 2016 compared to last year, to an average of $1.6 million. Redfin’s analysis tracks home sales in more than 1,000 cities across the country and defines a home as luxury if it is among the top 5 percent most expensive homes sold in the city in each quarter.

Stock market volatility early in the year followed by global economic uncertainty related to the Chinese economy and Brexit may have dampened price growth, but it didn’t keep luxury clientele from buying. Sales of homes priced above $1 million increased 6.8 percent in the third quarter from a year prior. Sales of homes priced above $5 million were mostly flat, inching up a mere 0.4 percent.

Instead of a slowdown, Anne Miller, director of Brand Marketing for Re/Max, describes the current status for luxury as more of a pause as a result of a watch- and-wait mode post-election.  “Right now, everyone is positive about 2017.” Also, she says, it’s important to remember this is a discretionary purchase. 

All of this underscores how much real estate has become a passion for the affluent. “We know on average the top 1 percent own at least four houses in different locations,” Anton says. “They are focused on real estate, but the post-recession affluent consumer is more price sensitive, more sophisticated, more focused on research and more involved in the process. They are becoming greater partners with their agents.”

Many believe a change is in the offing for luxury. “We are seeing increased activity since the election and believe this represents a pent-up demand in the upper price points,” says White.

Even in New York, a “new state of mind” is replacing what Ramirez calls “a lackluster desire to move forward.” Too many options immobilized potential buyers, who hesitated because a better option might be available the next day. This lack of urgency even trickled down to lower price points. Now, Ramirez says, “People are realizing, ‘this is the market, this is the new normal. So, let me look for what is perfect for me and move forward, there is nothing else to wait for.’”

“What we see is today’s most affluent buyers consider themselves to be prudent. Nobody is spending money frivolously, but they’re spending money. What you have to remember is what may be frivolous to one person is an absolute requirement to someone else, so the person who is making that purchase, it’s not a frivolity to them because then they’re making a prudent purchase,” explains Boomsma.

No matter what happens there is a good chance the love affair between the affluent and real estate will continue. “They are always looking for the next best thing. They want to invest their money wisely, and if they can get in sooner and find something they absolutely love, the better it is,” says Miller.

Wild Cards

Year-end finds us at a unique vantage point, where everything from foreign policy to taxes to the economy seems to be on a mythic tipping point. For luxury, several potential wildcards could be at play. Consider: “tax cuts that might benefit high-income or higher-net-worth individuals that could provide the incentive, the means and the interest to invest in real estate,” says Smoke. “Real estate is a long-term inflation hedge, and so if indeed those funds are more available because of tax cuts and/or from financial market performance…. And inflation is more expected in the future, there could be more individuals pursuing specific investment and second homes because of the ability to access an inflation hedge.”

A potential negative, according to Smoke, would be changes to the mortgage interest deduction. “Imposing a cap is going to impact luxury more than other parts of the market, and, in particular, one part of the cap could be no longer allowing an interest deduction on second homes or vacation homes,” he says. While not all the upper-tier relies on mortgages, changes would still affect a swath of this demographic, such as older baby boomers who comprise a substantial segment of this market.

Still, Boomsma says he finds it interesting that in post-election concerns, the economy is not at the forefront. “It’s certainly not in the perception right now that the economy is the great concern, so from this perspective when it comes to luxury real estate, that’s probably a good thing,” he says.

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